by Anna Campbell
Back in 2006, when I'd sold but hadn't yet got a book on the shelves, Avon ran a wonderful writing contest called FanLit. I made so many friends through that, many of whom have since published and become world famous! Not to mention that many of them are now Bandita Buddies as well!
One of the talented writers I met there is Courtney Milan and I'm delighted that her debut historical romance for HQN is out this month. I'm privileged to have read PROOF BY SEDUCTION and it's fantastic, one of the best books I read last year. It's clever and passionate and beautifully written and features a really compelling hero and heroine. Seriously, you'll love it!
So I'm delighted today to introduce Courtney to the lair. Please give her a wonderful welcome, pour her a margarita, undress her a cabana boy and let's get this show on the road. One lucky commenter will win the brilliant PROOF BY SEDUCTION! Whooo-hooooo!
If you'd like to know more about Courtney and her books, her website is: www.courtneymilan.com
Courtney, huge congratulations on your debut PROOF BY SEDUCTION which is a corker of a read. Can you tell us something about the story and the inspirations behind it?
In PROOF BY SEDUCTION, Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, discovers that his younger, more gullible, cousin, has been visiting a fortune-teller. As a scientist, Gareth is appalled—and he vows to prove that the fortune-teller is a fraud. Unfortunately, “Madame Esmerelda”—actually a young woman named Jenny Keeble—has absolutely no interest in being proven a fraud.
There are so many inspirations for this story I don’t even know where to start. The biggest inspirations for this story, I think, were my two critique partners, Tessa Dare and Amy Baldwin—who pushed me to do my very best, who told me when something wasn’t working, and who never, ever let me give up on this story, even when I was convinced that nobody would ever buy it.
Congratulations again. It's a wonderful book! Here in the lair, we love call stories. Can you give us yours?
The short version is this: My agent sent out my book on something like a Tuesday or a Wednesday in the middle of summer—in fact, not even one week before the annual conference that the Romance Writers of America puts on. I’d heard from others that (a) summer was a dead time and (b) it would take weeks, if not months, to hear a response. So the next Monday evening she called me.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but she told me that she had offers on my book. I was quite, quite stupid. I think I said something like, “Offers? But that word is plural.”
And she laughed and told me that so far, she had two publishers interested and others who were reading and perhaps might come in. I was completely dumbstruck. I had no idea what to think. “I’m not sure what this means,” I finally said.
“This means,” my agent told me, “you’re going to be a published author. But first we will have to hold an auction.”
“Oh,” I said, still not processing what was going on. “Well, then. That’s interesting, I guess.” And I hung up on her and sat in my chair and stared at the wall for a few minutes, before realizing that I had just been extremely rude.
Then, of course, I had to go to RWA Nationals and not tell anyone that I had offers on my book because nothing was settled yet. I was up for a Golden Heart that year, and everyone kept remarking about how unflappable I seemed, but the truth was, I was shell-shocked, not calm. I was in such a daze. I don’t even think I’ve quite managed to come out of it.
What’s coming up next for Courtney Milan?
In September, TRIAL BY DESIRE will be out. The hero of that story is Ned Carhart, who is Gareth’s cousin and a secondary character in PROOF BY SEDUCTION. After that, 2011 will see two books that are codenamed Bigamy and Blasphemy—but as they’re still in early stages, I won’t say too much about them!
You write in the early Victorian era. What appeals to you about this period in history?
Before the Victorian era, it used to be that people lived for generation after generation, doing the same inherited jobs for generation after generation, moving in the same social circles for generation after generation. Then, the industrial age broke out with a vengeance, and the result was a large number of mobile workers with shallow geographical roots. For the wealthy, land lost its value as currency. It was a time of tremendous social upheaval, and over the course of a few decades, long-rooted social traditions just disappeared.
One of the fundamental human hungers is for community, for a place in society where you fit in and are needed and need others in return. For all that people talk about capitalism and commerce in the news, I think what humans most desire is to give. Humans need to feel like we have something special to give, and we want to receive in return. Love is both the most selfish and the most generous thing in the world.
Romance, in my mind, is ultimately about that hunger. It's about finding the person that grounds you in community. I love writing in a time when the very notion of "community" was in flux, because it means my heroes and heroines can not only be missing love in their lives, but often are missing that vital connection to community. The community they would have fit into twenty years ago has fallen to pieces, and the one they yearn for doesn't yet exist.
So they not only have to grope their way towards love, but they have to invent a place where the future stops being scary.
Despite the carriages and cravats, this is, I think, much like today.
In your non-romance-writer life, you have a career in the law. Has that helped or hindered your romance writing?
The great thing about being a writer is that everything helps! If your passion is crocheting, there’s a book you can write about that. If you’re interested in ice-hockey, that works too. For me, my I love science and legal geekery, and those come out in my books. Even before I started writing, I was fascinated with legal history (and American legal history is the same as Australian legal history: that is, we all go back to England to find out how it all started).
In fact, I was always more interested in the history than in the actual law. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that I write historical romances then, right?
Please tell us about your usual day.
In the mornings, I put on my feather boa and then pour myself a mimosa… Oh wait. That’s someone else’s life.
Mine is not very glamorous. I have a day job, so I usually get up around 5 AM to write. I do that until about 8 or 9, when I scramble out of my pajamas and rush in to work, where I am until about 6 or 7. I come back home, spend some time with my husband and my dog, and then I start writing again around 8 or 9. Eventually, I can’t take it any more and I go to bed with a book.
On the weekends, I spend more time writing, and more time with my husband and dog. Right now, we’re teaching our dog how to herd sheep, so every weekend or so we’ll drive down to a farm and get him in front of some big woolly things. Then we go home and I write.
Do you have any advice for unpublished writers?
Make friends with other writers. They’ll help you keep motivated, cheer for you when things go well, and be understanding when they don’t. I’ve been really lucky in that I have a huge number of really understanding, supportive friends. I think this is true about everything you do—make friends who support you and push you to do your best, and everything else will follow.
Thanks, Courtney! Great answers, particularly your advice to aspiring writers.
I’m lucky in that many of my writing friends have also published books, so in addition to talking about my own book (and let’s face it, that gets boring after a while) I can talk about theirs, too! I particularly love Tessa Dare, Victoria Dahl, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Ann Aguirre, Anna Campbell, Sherry Thomas, Joanna Bourne, Kris Kennedy, Tiffany Clare (most of you haven’t read her yet, but you will in the fall of 2010), Carrie Lofty…
So you tell me—given those interests, what book do you think I should read next, and why? I’m giving away a copy of PROOF BY SEDUCTION, so keep the suggestions coming.